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What is Microsoft up to?

You know those moments when something happens that is so incredible and amazing that your brain has trouble processing it? I just had one of those experiences at Microsoft Build 2017 last week in Seattle.

You know those moments when something happens that is so incredible and amazing that your brain has trouble processing it? I just had one of those experiences at Microsoft Build 2017 last week in Seattle. Microsoft has been busy creating new combinations and new categories of hardware and software. Significantly, Microsoft is doing it by putting developers and users center stage.

Let me explain, using a couple of examples from Build 2017:

Windows and Linux

First, Ubuntu, SUSE Linux, and Fedora are all coming to the Windows Store! The Windows subsystem for Linux has been available to Windows 10 users after the Windows 10 Anniversary update. This means that you can use, code, and debug Linux targeted applications on Linux on Windows. Watch The Future of Visual Studio talk from Build 2017 by Amanda Silver and Tim Sneath if you don’t believe me.

This mixture of technology opens the door to many different opportunities for many different types of developers. Microsoft is going to offer this in the Windows store as well, so that Windows 10s users will also have this functionality. Put simply, students should now be able to have amazing software toolsets on affordable machines. (Scott Hanselman has a great post on setting up an incredibly flexible development environment with Linux on Windows that is definitely worth a read.)

Visual Studio and accessibility

Saqib Shaikh with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

There is a developer at Microsoft who is incredibly passionate about accessibility. His name is Saqib Shaikh and he creates incredible things to help others. Last year he wrote software using Microsoft’s cognitive APIs and combined it with a pair of “smart glasses” to create the Seeing AI project, which Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella demo’d on stage at Build 2017. As a blind developer, Saqib’s goal was to help him experience and interact with the world around him. (He has a popular answer on a Stack Overflow post titled “How can you program if you’re blind,” where he describes how he does this.)

The Visual Studio team has been able to work with Saqib and others to push forward an amazing effort to use accessibility APIs everywhere possible in its products. Paying real attention to accessibility is another example of how Microsoft is not just focusing on what is obvious, but also on what is important.

A personal connection

The effort is incredibly meaningful to me, personally, because one of my daughters is blind and deaf. She pours her heart into everything she does and her creativity shows me that she is going to grow into a great maker, developer, or whatever she is driven to do. Efforts like this give me confidence that we’ll be able to enable and equip her to follow her passions in the future.

This is what I am seeing from Microsoft today. A renewed commitment to its users and a desire to hear from users and work with partners to create amazing things that reinforce social responsibility. I believe Microsoft is setting an example for the industry in this regard. Here at New Relic we’ve already teamed up with Microsoft to build incredible experiences in the Azure Portal Marketplace and with support for various Azure resources. We are excited to continue to work with Microsoft toward a future where more people can create amazing products and services that make a genuine impact in people’s lives.

Microsoft Focuses on Social Responsibility at Build 2017

Opportunity. Responsibility. Impact. Those are just a few of the words that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella invoked in his opening day keynote at the Microsoft Build 2017 developers conference to describe the developer ecosystem of today.

His words were not hollow, just watch the video below and try not to cry. Developers have a responsibility to make an impact to better our world. Maybe you think that sounds preachy or unrealistic but I think it sounds just right

Sure, I could list the numerous things released and demoed at the first day of Build 2017 (in fact, you’ll find my favorites below), or discuss the three focuses of IoT Edge, developer tooling, and artificial intelligence, but that coverage is widely available elsewhere. So first, I wanted to spend some cycles on something that I find a bit deeper and more meaningful than a list of features: social responsibility.

This is something that we have seen Microsoft embrace more fully in the months since Nadella assumed his new post in 2014, and it’s a mantel that I have seen others— including Scott Hanselman, Scott Guthrie, Scott Hunter, David Fowler, Troy Hunt and Damian Edwards—also pick up frequently.

I am talking about the act of choosing to make a positive impact on society, whether or not there’s any potential for personal gain. Microsoft is clearly an effective business, which means making money, pleasing investors and other stakeholders, and creating incredible products and service are all important. It seems clear to me, however, that the company’s vision is also driven by the desire to make the world better.

Highlights of the day

Of course, there were plenty of product announcements as well. Here are some of the ones I found most interesting:

✳  Visual Studio 2017 for Mac is out of preview and now generally available!

✳  Cortana Skills kit is now in public preview.

✳  Azure IoT Edge was announced. This seems designed to enable cloud capabilities such as analytics, algorithm execution, and cognitive services to run on IoT devices! Imagine not having to deal with latency and bandwidth challenges on your IoT devices but still get the benefits of all that Azure cloud computing provides.

✳  Microsoft Cognitive Services have been expanded.

✳  Azure Batch Artificial Intelligence training deep neural networks, was announced as a private preview.

✳  Azure Cosmos DB was announced. Azure Cosmos DB is Microsoft’s globally distributed, multi-model database.

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